Christmas during summer...

Published: December 13th 2012
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This week they turned on the lights of the Christmas decoration that has been hung during the past weeks. Let me tell you something: Bolivians take Christmas decoration very seriously. The Prado, the main boulevard around here, is one big light. There is even something like a Christmas market with baked apples. The only difference is that the lights hang on palm trees and people walk around in T-Shirts. My boss wanted a Christmas themed cover for our magazine and I suggested to take a picture of a Christmas tree completely out of lights they had put up on one bridge. She said that's a good idea and asked me to there with Tai, the new Japanese volunteer in Journalism, so he could take pictures. So there we stood at 7pm waiting for the tree to light up. Some men came and played around with the cables for 20 minutes, but then left with the tree still being dark. It was getting late (and dark) and I remembered some of the first words I heard when I came here: "Don't ever cross bridges at night! As you might have noticed, there is not much water in the rivers, so the drug addicts live under the bridges as there is enough space at night. They will come out at night and kill you on that bridge just to sell your clothes for some drugs." Well, wonderfull! There I was, a blond gringa and next to me a Japanese with a very expensive camera in his hands. We were on a bridge at night. It was still busy though and there were lots of people, but I still didn't feel well. So at 7.30pm when the last sunrays had disappeared and there was still no light on the freaking tree I said to Tai: "Screw it. I'm not gonna stand on one of the more dangerous bridges waiting for a stupid tree to light up! Let's go." And so we left and went to a restaurant instead to meet the other volunteers. On our way we passed the Prado and got to see all its beauty, so we did get some shots of Christmas lights.

Friday morning I went to a museum with the kids from Carlein's orphanage. I was there first and had to wait for them. Suddenly a taxi stopped in front of the museum and out came 17 (!!) kids plus Carlein and her boss. It was a normal 5-passenger-car, so I was pretty impressed. Unfortunately I was so amazed that I didn't grab my camera out to film this. Next thing that happened was when the kids entered the museum: One girl suddenly turned around and ran out on the street. I was very confused until I heard Carlein's boss yell: "Wait! There's a bathroom in the museum. You can pee there!" So this girl needs to pee and her first reaction is to run out on a very busy street corner and pee on the street? (Well, if you read my other blogs you know you know people actually do that here...) I had to laugh really hard, but decided not to laugh out loud and then I had to accompany the girl to the restroom and make sure she washes her hands. At first the guide was very patient and tried to explain everything to the kids, but after a while we walked faster and faster through the museum with him passing by cabinets and saying "That's boring, we don't need to look at that." Yeah, right! As an anthropologist he found mummies boring? Oh please! In the end he put on a DvD about dinosaurs and the kids asked me to sit on the ground with them. Two little boys started using my legs as pillows and one drooled all over my pants, a girl started doing my hair.

Friday night we went out cause it was Carlein's last night in Bolivia. We met at a friend's house first to hang out and drink before the clubs opened. I really don't go out often here, but everytime I do it is raining like crazy. We had to run from one place to the other when outside and the bar/club we ended up at was known for its outside area. There they had put up a tent, so you could actually sit outside, but you still had to run through the rain if you wanted to get from the toilet to the dancefloor or to the hangout area. At the entrance we got stamps you can only see in black light which is incredibly stupid, because if I go to the restroom and happen to wash it off, I won't even notice I need a new one. Also everyone got clowns noses which made the bitched up girls look ridiculous and they would only wear them for a moment. The gringos didn't care and kept wearing them until it got hard to breath or drink with them on.

The next morning I was sad my best friend here had left and didn't feel like doing anything, so when Paola asked me if I wanted to go buy a bathroom with her I agreed. Firstly, you never say no when a local offers you something like this, because as a tourist you would never get such insights into the country. Secondly, I really wanted to know what it means "to buy a bathroom", because we were supposed to bring it home in a taxi... We got to some street with many Christmas decoration stores and Paola was delighted by everything she saw. She was like: "Aw! Look at that!","Oh, this is sooo pretty!" and "What do you think?". I could only answer: "Sorry, but I think it's ugly (all those plastic trees and ugly little puppets)". She asked me if I didn't like Christmas and I calmed her down saying it was only the ugly decoration I didn't like. We then continued to get the bathroom. After searching through some stores we ended up at one which had the desired bathroom in beige and a boy started getting out the six piece bathroom out a storage. There was a toilet, a lavatory, toilet roll holder, towel hooks, another towel holder and a soap dish, all in beige. We put the "bathroom" in a taxi and returned home.

The Sunday was family day again. First, some of Alcira's grandchildren came over and we decorated the house and the Christmas tree (although it broke my heart the tree was out of plastic and had to be build together). Paola kept asking me which decoration would look better where. It was all really ugly (like the "HipHop Santa" who starts dancing to HipHop when you push a button), and I tried to be nice and say what would look best on each spot so I wouldn't be such a grinch again. Then Paola and I went to an event center where many people were showing off their Christmas crafts and you could do workshops. There Paola bought some fabric as she wanted to make some dolls herself (which, i must admit, aren't ugly at all). In the afternoon we went over to Alcira's other daughters house to cut out templates for the modelsdolls, but really I was watching movies with her kids. We watched "The Dictator" and it was funny to watch it in Spanish as they tried to translate many of the jokes which then weren't funny anymore. Also I had my favorite Bolivian food, Charque, for lunch (meat that is fried and very crunchy with potatoes and egg) and in the evening I joined the others in cutting out templates. We left at around 10pm, but crazy Paola stayed to work more and later told me she had been cutting out templates until 3am.

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21st December 2012

Stories of Bridges
Thanks for your detailed stories! I never heard about the scary druggies under the bridges though! It sounds like you have had some great adventures! I have just go back from a three month spell in South America and was working at a volunteer project for a short time, if you are still there I would really recommend checking it out the kids were the sweetest ever and theyt have some great activities for them which was nice to see! Here is a blog about the project I was at, maybe you know it?

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